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November 13, 2005

art marketing workshop by Marty Rudolph

by sven at 9:54 pm

This weekend, both yesterday and today, I was at a two-day art marketing workshop. It was presented by marketer-extraordinaire Marty Rudolph. Overall evaluation: excellent -- well worth the money.

I went into this knowing that I don't yet have a body of work that's ready for marketing. But I wanted to understand the big picture now, so if/when I do get to that point I'll know what to do.

I was pleased to discover that the overall strategy for marketing is nearly identical to fundraising for non-profits -- something I already have a decent grasp on. You have a story to tell; you get people excited about that story; you throw special events; you get them on your mailing list.

I get the sense that there is a three-step ladder to becoming a well-recognized artist: (1) start with a home show, (2) move on to street shows, and then (3) get shown in galleries. Marty made the process for getting into a gallery seem very tangible, very doable. Go to all the galleries, figure out which one you fit in, then make a pitch to the owners. Getting shown in galleries in other cities seems to be an outgrowth of doing roadtrips to do out-of-state street shows -- when you're in another town, you check out all of its galleries, just like you would on your home turf. Apparently there's a must-buy periodical called "art calendar" that collects all of the street shows' dates. Don't go to a gallery until you've sold on your own.

Galleries and agents both seem like things I'll want to avoid. Galleries take a lot of the profit, and they're not necessarily going to work hard to sell your stuff; they want an easy sell. In that sense, they sound a lot like book publishers. Agents, apparently, are only interested in representing you when you're already doing well selling things. It makes sense: both galleries and agents are all about finding someone who has a sellable product, bargaining control of it away from them, and selling the thing for their own profit. If they actually saved me labor it might be worth enlisting their help -- but it sounds like even when you get a deal, you still have to be your own best publicist. No thanks!

Repeated messages:

I tend to look at workshops of this sort as meditations... During the whole time there'll only be a few insights that really go "click" in my head -- but I'm forced to spend two days grappling with a particular problem. Being forced to really think about marketing, I'm beginning to see who I could sell some of my stuff to...

The "witch" and "pajama dreamer" style could appeal to folks doing collaging, art dolls, and scrapping. I think it would do well in cafes. Possibly Lunar Boy gallery in Astoria, the Angry Fairy gallery in Portland, or shops that deal with urban vinyl / designer toys. Folks who like Dave McKean, Maurice Sendak, Winsor McCay. Marty suggests that divorced women may also be a target audience for this sort of whimsical stuff...

At the same time, I think I also sort of flummoxed Marty. I'm enough on the boundaries of existing art forms, doing my own thing, that I'm going to have to create my own markets. That means starting with people I know, and trying to enlist them as "evangelists" who'll help connect me to other people. [To be fair, I probably didn't have enough examples of work for Marty to really evaluate, either.]

Besides the fine art thread of my work, I also showed the Let Sleeping Gods Lie teaser and my "elder hat" sculpture. I'm beginning to realize that there's a pretty good market out there for this project, once it's done. H.P. Lovecraft is a thriving niche. Plus there are all the sci-fi and gaming conventions to go to. The folks who did a silent film version of "Call of Cthulhu" this year are marketing globally -- translating the title cards to Portuguese, Korean, etc. I could certainly do that too, if I got ambitious.

Unfortunately, coming home from this workshop, another take-home message was that I'm too diversified right now. Do I want to focus on sculpture? filmmaking? essay writing? I don't want to just dump any one of my talents -- but without sacrificing something, how am I going to build the necessary body of work? get to the point where I have an inventory of product that's ready to push?

Sigh... Such a dilemma...

posted by sven | November 13, 2005 9:54 PM | categories: classes & workshops